'Ion Mobility Mass Spectrometry - The Next 5 Years' reviewed in Mass Matters

Published on 21 Jan 13, under FAIMS


The recently released ebook 'Ion Mobility Mass Spectrometry - The Next 5 years' was reviewed in the December 2012 issue of 'Mass Matters' (Edition 69), the official publication of the British Mass Spectrometry Society (BMSS). Here is the full text:

Ion Mobility Mass Spectrometry - The Next 5 Years brings together contributions from more than 30 academic and industrial researchers who use or develop Ion Mobility Spectrometry-Mass Spectrometry systems, including Alison Ashcroft (University of Leeds), Tony Bristow (Astrazeneca) and Colin Creaser (Loughborough University). The book was produced in collaboration with Owlstone Ltd., a Cambridge (UK) based developer and manufacturer of FAIMS instruments. The ebook is available under a Creative Commons license so anyone can download, forward, print and copy it for free.

Ion Mobility Spectrometry is an established technique for the separation and characterisation of gas-phase ions based on their differing velocities in an electric field.1 Traditional IMS uses drift tubes and static electric fields to analyse mixtures of ions and has been deployed by homeland defence services as a means of detecting explosives and chemical warfare agents. Continuing technological developments have led to the introduction of new IMS variations such as Field Asymmetric Ion Mobility Spectrometry (FAIMS) and Travelling Wave Ion Mobility Spectrometry. These variants exploit the change in the mobility of different ions when exposed to high strength oscillating electric fields and allow better, faster separation.

The travelling wave and microscale FAIMS devices [have] greatly increased the applicability of ion mobility across a wide range of analytes.

Tony Bristow, Astrazeneca

IMS can be used as a sample pre-separation step before a mass spectrometer, in much the same way as traditional chromatographic methods; this is referred to as Ion Mobility Spectrometry - Mass Spectrometry (IMS-MS). Recent commercialization of hyphenated FAIMS (DMS)2 and T-Wave3 IMS-MS instruments have led to an expansion in the number of people using the technique.4 IMS-MS is suited in particular to the separation of complex mixtures based on the mobility of analyte ions (which is dependent on their charge state and collision cross section rather than mass/charge ratio). This provides a new route to distinguishing components of similar mass, such as conformers and isomers, in chemical mixtures. This has led to interest from researchers in the ‘omics’ sciences (i.e. proteomics, metabolomics etc.) in particular, and from those looking for particular compounds that are otherwise lost in background ‘chemical noise’. The techniques’ increasing user base is also driving the development of a wave of new applications for IMS-MS, such as its use in imaging mass spectrometry and as a clinical tool for the diagnosis of disease.

“FAIMS provides robust and highly reproducible on-line sample fractionation that improves overall peptide discovery by decreasing sample complexity, enabling detection of co-eluting species with differing m/z and radically reduces background chemical noise.” Robert L. Moritz, Institute for Systems Biology

The purpose of this collection was to bring together the leading researchers in the field and for them to highlight their research and how they think the field will develop over the next five years. Each contributor was asked to address three questions; What their own IMS-MS research activities are/have been, what they think the most significant instrumentation or applications developments in IMS-MS have been and where they predict IMS-MS will make the most impact in the next 5 years. As well as providing a wealth of useful information to those currently using or intending to use IMS-MS, the book provides some interesting insights that would not be found in a traditional journal or textbook, for instance - “Under [the guidance of Roger Guevremont] the FAIMS waveform generator was brought from a dangerous device prone to discharge and blown operational amplifiers to a safe commercial device that required little to no maintenance after setup.” - Daniel Beach, University of Guelph. The predictions the authors make for the future of IMS-MS range from the integration of FAIMS with miniaturized mass spectrometers to the potential for IMS-MS to replace traditional chromatographic techniques for routine analysis. If you want to find out more about these predictions and all the others made by the authors, you’ll have to download the book!

The response so far to the ebook has been excellent, with over 1700 copies downloaded in November/December. Speaking about the ebook, Billy Boyle, co-founder of Owlstone Ltd., said “The response from the community has been fantastic, it shows how interest in IMS-MS is increasing, and I think it indicates just how important it is going to become as an analytical technique in the next few years.”

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  1. G. E. Eiceman and Z. Karpas, Ion Mobility Spectrometry, 2nd edition, CRC Press, Boca Raton, FL. USA, 2005
  2. www.ultrafaims.com
  3. Waters Synapt
  4. The Rise and Rise of IMS
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